The United States wants to hold most of the suspected terrorists at a prison camp in Cuba for the duration of the war on terrorism instead of trying them before military tribunals, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.

Rumsfeld said the 660 or so men held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base are imprisoned not as punishment but “to keep them from going back and fighting again and killing people.” He said most would be held until the global war on terrorism is over — a fight that Rumsfeld has said could last years, if not decades.

The defense secretary said he expects some suspects to be tried before military tribunals, but prefers that most continue to be imprisoned indefinitely.

“Our interest is in not trying them and letting them out,” he said in a question-and-answer session after a speech to the National Press Club. “Our interest is in — during this global war on terror — keeping them off the streets, and so that’s what’s taking place.”

The Guantanamo Bay detention center holds prisoners from 42 countries, detained for alleged links to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terror network or the ousted Afghan Taliban regime that sheltered it. They include three teenagers whom the military may recommend for release soon.

Scroll to Top